Mechanosensitive Piezo Channels in the Gastrointestinal Tract

C. Alcaino, G. Farrugia, A. Beyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Sensation of mechanical forces is critical for normal function of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and abnormalities in mechanosensation are linked to GI pathologies. In the GI tract there are several mechanosensitive cell types—epithelial enterochromaffin cells, intrinsic and extrinsic enteric neurons, smooth muscle cells and interstitial cells of Cajal. These cells use mechanosensitive ion channels that respond to mechanical forces by altering transmembrane ionic currents in a process called mechanoelectrical coupling. Several mechanosensitive ionic conductances have been identified in the mechanosensory GI cells, ranging from mechanosensitive voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels to the mechanogated ion channels, such as the two-pore domain potassium channels K2P (TREK-1) and nonselective cation channels from the transient receptor potential family. The recently discovered Piezo channels are increasingly recognized as significant contributors to cellular mechanosensitivity. Piezo1 and Piezo2 are nonselective cationic ion channels that are directly activated by mechanical forces and have well-defined biophysical and pharmacologic properties. The role of Piezo channels in the GI epithelium is currently under investigation and their role in the smooth muscle syncytium and enteric neurons is still not known. In this review, we outline the current state of knowledge on mechanosensitive ion channels in the GI tract, with a focus on the known and potential functions of the Piezo channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-244
Number of pages26
JournalCurrent Topics in Membranes
StatePublished - 2017


  • Enteric nervous system
  • Enterochromaffin cell
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Interstitial cell of Cajal
  • Mechanosensation
  • Mechanosensitive
  • Mechanosensitive ion channel
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Neuron
  • Piezo
  • Smooth muscle cell
  • Voltage-gated channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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